JACKSONTOWN - Hikers or shutterbugs unable to find vivacious fall colors this season shouldn’t take it personally, said Mike Ecker, Dawes Arboretum’s director of horticulture. “This is a pathetic year,” he said. Ecker said the unbelievably dry summer— the area’s roughly three inches of rainfall short—caused trees great stress. “They’re shutting down for the lack of moisture,” said Ecker. “They don’t want to lose more water.” He explained that during dr y seasons, deciduous trees jettison their leaves prematurely, which makes for a very dull autumn. “Many are bare,” he said.
Ecker said entering into winter dry is really tough on trees, even (and maybe especially) evergreens. “Evergreens can be really hard hit,” he said. Ecker said if this were a normal rainfall year, trees would be in full color right now. Some places with damp soil are experiencing full color, “but those are few and far between,” he said. Determined fall color hunters can find bright individual trees, but Ecker doubts anyone will have much luck the rest of this year finding local groves full of red and yellow leaves.
Ecker said the Tulip and Katsura trees were early indicators of a lackluster autumn. Normally, both trees have brilliant leaves in early autumn and the Katsura even smalls like cotton candy—but not this year. “Think about it,” he said. “How long has it been since we had an all day rainfall?”
Cincinnati has experienced drought conditions for the last four years, which some oak trees haven’t survived. Ecker hopes the Central Ohio climate isn’t going in the same direction, but he’s worried it might be. “Last year, we were watering our annuals in May,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before.”